The StartupNation Blog Trends, tips and real-life anecdotes from industry experts

Archive for “Plan Your Business”

Leave Your Business and Make More

When I was an employee, I hated it when my boss was in the office. The boss always managed to muck things up and did more damage than good by running around being self-important and annoying. As soon as we could get him out of the office, systems started moving smoothly again. We got more [...]

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Take PR Action to Boost Sales Fast!

If your business is not getting the sales you want, it’s time to take action with public-relations activities. Do you want some free publicity within the next two weeks? Here’s what you can do right now: Research. If you don’t already have it, find the name and contact information for a reporter at your local [...]

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Get the Word Out Now!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen an increase in small-business marketing budgets in the last few weeks.   More small businesses are realizing that they need to market and promote their services more than ever to get their piece of the consumer’s shrinking budget.   After all, if you don’t get your name [...]

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How to Increase Sales in 3 Steps

If you want to get some new business, here are three quick tips that may help you boost your customer-list fast… 1. Make A List. Check It Twice. Look through all of your contacts and review the people you’ve met in your industry or at various conferences, local business meetings, presentations, etc. Then, make a list. Research [...]

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The Small Business Professor Gives Insights on Brother® Small Business Survey

A recent survey conducted by StartupNation’s friends at Wakefield Research for Brother® International, http://bit.ly/cIsNF5, indicated that small business owners “believe that stockpiling their cash now is the best strategy for survival.” The survey also revealed ways that small business owners plan to make their businesses more efficient this year. To find out more, I interviewed [...]

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Get the Word Out!

Once you do your research and contact media members with targeted pitches, there are several other things you can do to build buzz about your business. As Step 7 in our “7 Steps to Successful Public Relations” at http://www.startupnation.com/steps/77/3856/1/1/public-relations-action-plan.htm states, it’s time to get the word out! Here are some additional activities to add to [...]

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Ready to Make Media Contact?

After conducting extensive research and preparing your story ideas (discussed in previous blog entries pertinent to our “7 Steps to Successful Public Relations”), the next step is to contact the media. Introduce Yourself. You can start with a press release announcing your new business and call or e-mail the appropriate media member with a simple [...]

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The Art of Getting Buzz in Entrepreneur Magazine

For many small business owners getting a write-up in Entrepreneur magazine is the holy grail of media coverage.  A few lines in the magazine can make all those sleepless nights, hard work, and determination seem rewarded.  No trophies or plaques required.  So what does it take to secure this much coveted ink? Aronado Placencia, host [...]

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Do You Need a Media Kit and What is it?

Ok. You’ve probably heard that you need a media kit but aren’t sure why or what goes in it. Well, as part of our “7 Steps to Successful Public Relations,” here’s the information you need to know.  What is a Media Kit? A media kit is a package of information that allows reporters to get [...]

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What’s Your Story? How to Get Publicity

Want to know how to get some free publicity? Well, in the last couple of weeks, we’ve covered the first two steps in our “7 Steps to Successful Public Relations.” Now, it’s time for Step 3 – Develop Your Story Idea. As a new business owner, it’s easy to rush through publicity efforts in order [...]

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Who Are You Pitching?

  Last week, we looked at the first step to getting some free publicity to help your business boost sales. Now, here’s the second step in our “7 Steps to Successful Public Relations.” “Who Ya Gonna Call?” Once you have a PR Plan in place, it’s time to get smart with a good dose of [...]

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Finding a Franchise Opportunity – ‘Tis the Season

As you may know, StartupNation offers a franchise selector service. You basically use the finder tool to identify franchises that fit your interests and financial realities. At this time of year, interest in finding a franchise is at fever pitch. People seem to come out of the self-reflective New Year and holiday period charged up and on [...]

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Can a Consultant Save You Cash…and Heartache?

As a bootstrap entrepreneur, I’ve learned there are just some things you don’t cut corners on. My “golden rule” has always been to hire the best Lawyer, Accountant, and Business Consultant you can find, even if you can’t afford it. The truth is you simply can’t afford NOT to.  Running my small business over the [...]

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How to Start Getting Publicity Now

Since we have a fresh new year, I think it’s time to renew some basics about publicity from our “7 Steps to Successful Public Relations.” For example, just because you’re a small business owner, it doesn’t mean that you can’t get great mentions in big, media venues. But how do you get started? Well, first [...]

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Surviving Tough Times-Interview with Author, Successful Entrepreneur George Cloutier

Want insider secrets from a highly successful entrepreneur on how to survive tough, economic times? Well, today you’re in luck. I caught up with George Cloutier, owner of the highly successful business, American Management Services, http://www.amserv.com/, to discuss his new book, “Profits Aren’t Everything; They’re the Only Thing.” Here’s what he had to say. Tell [...]

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Why Dell Beats the Hell Out of Threadless

First, they correctly targeted their customer and simply provided them with useful information.  Next, they implemented systems to monitor, measure, and manage customer service interactions.
(Great tips for handling customer service here.) These are great starting points and should serve as the foundation for any small business looking to incorporate social media in their marketing efforts.

While those are great steps for getting started in social media, it’s important that companies don’t stop there.  The real key to your success lies in your ability to actively engage that target demographic.  I urge you to roll up your sleeves a little and try some new strategies this year to finally get some ROI from social media.  To get you started, I’ve brainstormed a couple ideas below.

  • Include a playful and creative flyer in outgoing packages encouraging participation and possibly offering a reward… “Be a sweetie! (attach some candy to the card) Post a pic of you wearing this t-shirt on our Fan Page and we’ll send you a $5 gift card.”
  • Create a survey on Facebook or poll on Twitter (twtpoll) asking “friends” to vote on which new products to sell/create…the winning product will be offered to survey participants first, and at a discount. (See how Modcloth does this here)
  • Track down recent customers on Facebook and “friend” them with your companies Facebook page (who doesn’t want more “friends”?)
  • Spend money to make money…hire a Community Manager that will actually have the time to effectively target and engage new customers and strengthen your online branding. (Not sure what a Community Manager does? Read this by Chris Brogan.)

I truly believe social media is the future for small business marketing and I hope you can find at least one of these ideas helpful in your efforts to engage online.  Always be on the lookout for innovative new ideas to reach your customers and don’t be shy.  A sincere, heartfelt, and playful “hello” to your customers will be appreciated more times than not.  Just make sure you have the infrastructure in place to monitor, measure, and manage all those new customer interactions.

Need help with your social media campaign? Contact me directly here!

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I apologize for the outlandish headline, but I don’t really think it’s any more outlandish than crowning Threadless as the sales guru of Twitter.  I’m sure you’ve read some recent press in the media bragging about Threadless being the company to emulate when it comes to monetizing on Twitter. (Read one article from Inc here) [...]

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Stop Dilly-Dallying. Get This Book. Start a Business.

It’s time. Right Now. Stop dilly-dallying. Starting a business doesn’t have to be scarey. And you don’t have to wait. Start on a path to opening your own business. Get our life-changing book, StartupNation: Open for Business. There are easy steps you can take. And there are over 30 examples of success stories using our process, [...]

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A North Face By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet….

I just came across a great blog post by a fellow attorney, J. Michael Hurst at Keating Muething & Klekamp PLLC. Apparently, 19-year old Jimmy Winkelmann created a company called The South Butt LLC, which was meant as a parody of The North Face.

Here are the two logos at issue:

 

Apparently, Jimmy has a great sense of humor and set up his company to sell some t-shirts and hopefully raise money to cover his college tuition (he did end up raising something like $100,000, according to Hurst). I love this disclaimer on his website:

We are not in any fashion related to nor do we want to be confused with The North Face Apparel Corp. or its products sold under “The North Face” brand. If you are unable to discern the difference between a face and a butt, we encourage you to buy North Face products.

(Sound of author trying to compose herself after period of robust laughter)

Anyhoo….long story short, management at The North Face failed to see the humor in this situation (or apparently the difference between a face and a…. bottom) and actually slapped Winkelmann with an expensive trademark infringement lawsuit.

Hurst’s post does a great job of analyzing what the North Face would have to establish to prevail on their claim (something Hurst doesn’t think they will succeed in doing – and I agree with him).

But this does bring up a couple of really important points for those of us launching and running businesses.

(1)  Don’t Use A Name That Is Already In Use!

When you are choosing a name and logo for your company, make sure to research whether that name is in use already (particularly in the industry that your company will be in) and make sure you do not create a logo that looks like one from another company (as best as you can determine). You need to search your state records for names (usually the Secretary of State’s office will have the ability to search LLCs and Corporations in your state;  also search any other state in which you plan to do business now or in the future).  Also search national records, such as the TESS at the US Patent and Trademark office. I also recommend doing a Google search for the name to see if the domain is taken (or any variation of it) and to see if anyone is already using that word or combination of words for their business already.

Right or wrong, big companies generally are not shy about enforcing their trademarks (as you can see in the North Face case) and you don’t want to end up getting a cease and desist letter from an in-house legal department just after you spent your last red-cent having your logo and branding designed.

If your name or logo could cause confusion between your company and one with an already established trademark, you could be found to be infringing on their trademark. If you are, you could be forced to change your name, logo, packaging and anything else that uses the infringing mark. If you have any market traction already, you would then have to rebuild your brand and lose the work already put into marketing the infringing name/brand/logo. Add to that potential money damages and attorneys fees, and not doing your homework about your trademarks becomes an expensive (and potentially fatal) detour for your business.

(2)  Protect Your Own Trademarks!!

Once you are sure you aren’t at risk of infringing on someone else’s trademarks, make sure that you have properly trademarked your own logo, tag lines and even product names and packaging so that you have the ability to protect your intellectual property and branding if someone does attempt to infringe on your trademark in the future.

Generally, “use” of the trademark itself does give you some protection (use the ™ symbol as soon as you start using anything you want trademarked). That means, always include the symbol on your website, on all of your advertising, correspondence/emails with customers, and written materials at a minimum.

But the best way to protect yourself if to file with the US Patent and Trademark Office in order to have a “registered” trademark (at which point you use the symbol ®).

Of course, I recommend hiring a good lawyer for this, as the paperwork can be tricky and you want to make sure it is done right. However, there are services out there that can help you file your own paperwork, such as Legal Zoom, so you have that less expensive option.

Just don’t decide to NOT trademark your branding. That could be an expensive mistake if someone else decides to use your name, logo or a variation of your logo (deliberately or without knowledge of yours). If you don’t have a registered trademark, you might not be able to stop them from using it, you will have less protection under the law to go after them, and might even lose your right to use your own name or logo in the future.

I’ve glossed over this because it is really fairly complicated subject, so make sure you find someone knowledgeable in trademarks to help you navigate this process.  (And now for the required disclaimer:  this post is NOT intended to give legal advice, so seek your own independent counsel for that!)

And if you have any experience with trademarks for your business (positive or negative), or questions, we want to hear from you so make sure to post a comment below!

You can read all of Hurst’s post at the link below.

http://intellectual-property.kmklaw.com/Trademark-Parody

 

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I just came across a great blog post by a fellow attorney, J. Michael Hurst at Keating Muething & Klekamp PLLC. Apparently, 19-year old Jimmy Winkelmann created a company called The South Butt LLC, which was meant as a parody of The North Face. Here are the two logos at issue:   Apparently, Jimmy has [...]

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The Death of Twitter. (and the Birth of Twitter for Business)


So what does this mean for small business?

If you haven’t jumped in on the social media bandwagon yet, now is the time.  Customers and clients are using their blogs, tweets, facebook status updates, and more to talk about your brand.  (Don’t believe me? Watch this.) With the birth of social search, these conversations will now be mainstream for all of Google to see.  In other words, your customers will directly effect your Google search rankings.

Will Twitter be more business friendly in 2010?

Absolutely. Their real-time search collaboration is a big step in the right direction and Twitter isn’t stopping there. It has also launched a “Contributors” function (invitation only for now) which allows companies to have several authors send tweets under the same company profile. It is rumored that this may be one of the many new features in a “business class” Twitter account. These accounts would be part of an anticipated paid model launch in 2010. Also highly anticipated is the new emphasis on GeoAPI which will allow tweets to be seen with geo-location information. (Click here to read more.)

So what should you do?

Take advantage of this new opportunity to leverage social media in your favor by developing a listening strategy (read my post here for a how to), ensuring that your current web collateral can easily be shared socially (use AddThis or ShareThis buttons), and abandon spamming your marketing messages via your social networks in favor of developing mutually beneficial online relationships with key influencers in your industry.

Share your thoughts below in the comments! Are you using Twitter for Business?

Need help with your social media campaign? Contact me directly here!

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I wouldn’t encourage the naysayers to start chanting “the wicked witch is dead” just yet, but there has been a definite decline in Twitter users. According to the latest research from eMarketer, Twitter posted a decline in users from 23 million to 20 million. How is this possible you ask? Easy. The honeymoon is over [...]

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